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Upside down

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About six months ago, The Daily Times carried a tragic story about people who were stuck on Lake Malawi after a vessel they were travelling in developed a fault. Eventually, they were tossed in Davy Jones’ locker and all the souls were wasted. What I find grim and melancholic about the incident is about one man who, staring death in the eye, called one of his relatives ashore bidding farewell: “This is my last phone call, we are sinking.”

You would be shocked that before the vessel sunk along with the passengers, they had been on the lake for a good number of hours. Reason being that the Department of Marine Services, who they tried to call for help, did not and still does not have rescue vessel and equipment. Lives were lost and it all sounds normal.

But this is not very strange news in this corner of the Earth. Last week, a very close relative fell sick very deep into the night. We had to take her to a private hospital where she was supposed to have some tests. To my utter disdain, we were told that the tests could not be done simply because the machine had broken down two days earlier. And here, we are talking about a matter of life.

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Come to think of the many stories of people dying simply because a hospital could not provide an ambulance for a referral. Some lives have been wasted on petty explanations that the doctor on duty could not make it to hospital because he could not be reached on his mobile because his phone battery was low because of blackouts.

Not long ago, vendors in Lilongwe had their merchandise charred. The fire which, with quick response, could have been easily contained raged on to destructive heights because the fire brigade said they could not reach the market in good time because they did not have fuel to run fire engines.

Our chameleon operations have cost the nation dearly but we do not seem to be interested to see change. We have come to accept everything bad as normal and life goes on. As I am writing this, there is no electricity and water in this part of the country. We expect it daily such that we are even shocked when we power and running taps. The other day, I was in one of this “top” hotels in town playing host to a South African friend. She ordered coffee, to my embarrassment, the waitress who looked timid told us that the hotel, with all its reputation, had its coffee-making machine down. My astonished friend simply asked, “How do you live in this country?”

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Honestly, we have become a nation that is earning itself sarcastic monikers every second. Our systems are outside down and nobody from the top to the bottom or the other way seems to have solutions. We have resigned to fate. We even, most times, do not realise whether we are facing a crisis or not. It is normal, normal, just very normal for us.

Take, for instance, right now. Before us, they is a higher education crisis which nobody appears to be interested to correct. Mzuzu University is closed, Nobody knows when the Polytechnic will open. By yesterday, the Malawi University of Science and Technology was closed, Malawi College of Health Sciences was locked down just like the Natural Resources College campus of the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology. Elsewhere, having five higher learning institutions closed when they are supposed to be in session is a crisis that calls for expedient attention; but not here at home.

Even the Chancellor, who happens to be President Peter Mutharika, does not have solutions to the problems that have rocked these institutions. He even confessed on Wednesday. In the ecclesiastical Pilate style, Mutharika washed his hands off the university woes. Ok, Peter was to some extent right that universities’ councils are there to make sure that colleges are properly managed, and that is the reason they are paid decent salaries. But as chancellor, who happens to occupy the top most seat in the hierarchy, Mutharika should have intervened after noticing that the people entrusted to run institutions of higher learning are drunk and dosing on their job.

It beats me now that Mutharika is desperate to absolve himself of the crisis on the premise that it is not his mandate to run such institutions yet this is the very same guy who rushed to issue a decree to arrest Eric Aniva, that infamous, Nsanje guy reputed for ritual cleansing. What is disturbing is the president’s selective interest in issues. Now, what is more important between intervening in the arrest of Aniva and the education crisis?

So, now you can agree with me that as a nation we are yet to put our priorities in the right order just like we do not know what we deserve or what we do not. One tends to ask why we have allowed, for 52 years, to have everything about us upside down.

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